Barring a collision between the earth and a pretty big asteroid, Hillary Clinton will clinch the Democratic presidential nomination tomorrow night in New Jersey before the polls even close in California. There are two reasons why the long presumptive nominee will become the real nominee, at least in waiting: Over 13 million Democrats didn't think making paid speeches on Wall Street and using a private email account were indictable offenses. And Bernie Sanders got three million fewer votes than her, fair and square.
That was the easy part. Now comes the hard part, at least to watch, because the next five months are going to be the ugliest in modern campaign history as Donald Trump flails and fails and Clinton returns his fire in making the case that she has earned the right to be the first woman president.
It has only been a week since Trump was declared the Republican nominee in waiting, and he has now entered a realm that is beyond even his mythic powers to manipulate and control: From the time he descended deux ex machina a year ago from the escalator at his 5th Avenue penthouse to announce his biggest celebrity stunt evah, no one has laid a glove on him, certainly not the GOP wannabes he dispatched one after another, nor Republican worthies like Paul Ryan who have bandaged their wounds and reluctantly come around to supporting him in the course of an election cycle that will fulfill the GOP's electoral death wish.
But all of a sudden, Trump's juvenile mockery, incoherence, dangerous ignorance, shameful business record, shady associations, chickenhawkishness, blatant misogyny, racist views and authoritarian tendencies are out in the open for all to see, and Clinton's failings -- real or imagined -- seem picayune by comparison to all but the "vulnerable" voters who have flocked to Trump like the suckers he separated from their money in his get-rich-quick schemes.
In fact, Clinton's biggest and best argument may be that she is not Dangerous Donald, and the more I study her lousy popularity ratings something rather obvious emerges: Those popularity ratings seem to have less to do with anything Clinton has done that the fact they're being driven, in large part, by Bernie Sanders supporters. The question, of course, then becomes what will happen to those ratings when Sanders drops out and announces his support for Clinton, which he eventually will do.
"There's no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf course deal," Hillary Clinton declared in her blistering evisceration of Donald Trump and his foreign policy fantasy world in a speech aimed squarely at Republican and independent voters who are contemplating voting for a Democrat for the first time. "But it doesn't work like that in world affairs. Just like being interviewed on the same episode of 60 Minutes as Putin is not the same as actually dealing with Putin."§
"After what she said about me today in her phony speech, that was a Donald Trump hit job. I will say this! Hillary Clinton has to go to jail, OK? She has to go to jail -- has to go! That was a phony hit job! She's guilty as hell!"
Trump has famously said that he does not believe in bad publicity, and his ability to hog attention by controlling the cable news narrative cycle -- turning negative coverage into positive publicity -- has been extraordinary until you consider that much of the mainstream media have acted like junkies desperate for their next fix and Trump has been their pusher man.
Beyond Clinton's speech, that all changed last week.
There was the sight of the man with the small hands and peculiar hair in an unaccustomed reactionary crouch as he fulminated over devastating reports about his fraudulent Trump University and licked his wounds over his disastrous attack on the judge handling two lawsuits against the university. There were damaging reports about Trump's use and abuse of veterans organizations, his continued refusal to release his tax returns and the justified concerns of legal scholars that he would eviscerate the First Amendment and ignore the separation of powers.
Trump's attack on the Trump University judge backfired badly and took on a life of its own, spilling into this week as conservatives joined the usual liberal suspects in condemnation and Trump dug an ever deeper hole by suggesting that the judge, whom he inaccurately called "a Mexican," should disqualify himself, adding unhelpfully that a Muslim judge couldn't be neutral, either.
What all those junkies in the press corps did not realize is that the very dysfunction of the Republican Party that greased the skids for Trump's improbable string of primary victories allowed him to escape the kind of close examination that, I predict, will render him a full monty fool by Election Day.
While it was not exactly a bloodless coup, Donald Trump's takeover of the GOP has been so complete that when House Speaker Paul Ryan, the party's de facto alpha dog, rolls out the House Republican agenda beginning this week, a laundry list of ideas that once were supposed to counter Trump's views will have magically have become Trump's views.§
Never mind that this really isn't the case and many Trump supporters believe that Ryan and the Republican elites -- we're talking Mitt Romney, the Bush family and their ilk -- are part of the problem. A big reason they're rallying to Dangerous Donald's side is because the elites repeatedly appealed to the hopes and fears of working class voters like themselves, and then did not merely ignore them in election after election, but repeatedly insulted them with pledges to reward the rich with tax cuts and remove the few restraints on Wall Street and the corporations who were outsourcing their jobs.
Dick Polman's read-between-the-lines translation of Ryan's capitulation to Trump says it all:
"But what skeptics need to remember is that even a renowned man of conscience like me must at times bend the rigors of logic to fit the exigencies of the moment. I have now done so, to bring myself into alignment with mein leader. I am now prepared to put my soul in a lockbox and endorse the notion that a purveyor of luxury hotels is qualified to command our nuclear codes. Just like Mr. Trump's voters, I am ready and eager to see what I want to see, to hear what I want to hear."
Ryan has one thing in common with the rest of the so-called leaders of the Republican Party: They're sniveling cowards. In merely the latest example, this crowd is wetting its undies over how to condemn Trump for his over-the-top remarks about judges because of their potentially negative effect on down-ballot races the party must win to keep control of the Senate without alienating his supporters. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hit the "right" note when he remarked that he didn't think what Trump said was "racist.")
The GOP is out of fresh ideas, and while many of Trump's ideas are sheer flapdoodle, his more rabid supporters believe that he is speaking to them. So there!
And isn't it beyond ironic that the party elites have been unable to conceive of how people could elected Barack Obama twice in what they thought was emotion winning out over common sense, and now the pitchfork populists whom they repeatedly diddled have helped the Frankencandidate ride the wave of their emotions and take over the party.
Part of the problem for candidate, party and followers, however, is that Trump still is running a primary campaign and with a staff ill suited for the enormous demands of a general election campaign. He's also having trouble raising money. What all of this adds up to is not just a mess of historic size, but the probability of a Hillary Clinton victory of historic proportions.
ABOUT THE IMAGEBased on the famous photograph of President Obama and his national security team watching the Osama bin Laden raid unfold, this Huffington Post photo illustration by Frank Oyttenhove shows how things might look if Donald Trump was president. Seated from left, Chris Christie, Trump, Marshall B. Webb, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, Hulk Hogan. Standing from left, Brittany von Gunz, Donald Trump Jr., Joe Arpaio, Rick Scott, Bruce Willis and Scott Brown.